Wood siding from 1861 is amazingly hard. This is the case for our siding and is why it has held up. In fact, the hardness of old siding help to preserve many of my village's houses which went unpainted for years.
Since the layers of paint on our house had either alligatored or pealed off from moisture coming through the siding, we needed to remove all of the paint.
After researching stripping techniques, we narrowed our options down to the SpeedHeater (see below) that uses infrared heating elements to soften paint which can then be scraped. This device heats a large area, doesn't get hot enough to vaporize the lead in lead paint or to burn wood, and is easy to use (Photos A & B).
UPDATE: I have also learned about PaintShaver Pro that is much faster and gets good recommendations. These tools are expensive, but if your painting an entire house, the cost of these tools is offset by the time they save. More at American International Tools.
If your siding nails are old and pry out easily, simply remove the siding and then strip the paint and prepare the boards for painting. You get a better job and can use house wrap and fix any insulation issues.
When removing lead-based paint, always wear a dust mask, preferable a N100.
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